Skip to Content
Tech policy

A Googler who brought down Google’s AI ethics board says she’s now facing retaliation

April 23, 2019

One of the leading figures in the movement to disband Google’s AI ethics board says she and other employee activists are now being punished for their activism.

In an e-mail circulated internally within Google and obtained by Wired, Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research and cofounded the research institute AI Now, wrote that after the ethics board’s dissolution, she was informed that her role would be “changed dramatically.” “I’m told that to remain at the company I will have to abandon my work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute,” she said.

Since its founding, AI Now has become an influential cornerstone of research on AI ethics and social impact, releasing reports and hosting annual summits that have sparked vigorous debate within the rest of the field. “Meredith [...] has been a real pioneer & thought leader on AI ethics, especially when it comes to ML bias, diversity, & inclusion,” François Chollet, a leading deep-learning expert at Google, wrote on Twitter. “I believe that her work is critical to Google’s mission, as an AI-first company [and...] I hope that she will be able to carry on her important work.”

In a statement, a Google spokesperson denied the allegations: “Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here.”

To have more stories like this delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our Webby-nominated AI newsletter The Algorithm. It's free.

Deep Dive

Tech policy

surveillance and control concept
surveillance and control concept

South Africa’s private surveillance machine is fueling a digital apartheid

As firms have dumped their AI technologies into the country, it’s created a blueprint for how to surveil citizens and serves as a warning to the world.

Europe's AI Act concept
Europe's AI Act concept

A quick guide to the most important AI law you’ve never heard of

The European Union is planning new legislation aimed at curbing the worst harms associated with artificial intelligence.

Inside the fierce, messy fight over “healthy” sugar tech

Yi-Heng “Percival” Zhang was a leader in rare sugar research. Then things got sticky.

Conceptual illustration showing text blacked out
Conceptual illustration showing text blacked out

The secret police: Cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder

An investigation by MIT Technology Review reveals a sprawling, technologically sophisticated system in Minnesota designed for closely monitoring protesters.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.